Starting in 1995 Dan has performed Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale with various orchestras. All the characters had to be created both as marionettes and as shadow puppets. A lit, magic violin that travels out into the audience, masks, castles, carriages, inventive imagery, and exhilarating dance numbers make this production highly entertaining.Until his untimely death in 2000, Robert J. Lurtsema was the narrator for these performances. “For years The Soldier’s Tale has been my favorite multi-character work to perform. I have been performing lately with a phenomenal puppeteer, Dan Butterworth whose production adds a new, captivating dimension. The production is imaginative, colorful, and spectacular, an absolutely ideal way to present Stravinsky’s music.”
Igor Stravinsky was a refugee living in Switzerland when he composed L’Histoire du Soldat. Not only had he seen many close friends and relations killed by the First World War, but the Russian Revolution of 1917 had deprived him of his income. As he gathered with his fellow countrymen he found himself deeply affected by the abyss of war and the dislocation that appeared all around him.
About this time he was introduced to the Swiss writer C.F.Ramuz who was to become his good friend and collaborator. The two poured over old Russian Folk tales and were inspired by the story of a soldier who tricks the devil, makes him drink too much vodka, and leaves victorious. In the hands of these two, it became, rather, the adventures of a Faustian deserter and the devil who eventually robs him of his soul. The many references to the inability to cross over the border, or to the “Mother” that doesn’t know him, must surely refer to Stravinsky and his compatriots and their plight as refugees from Mother Russia.
The first and subsequent performances of “L’Histoire du Soldat” in 1918 were a huge success despite the ongoing war and the outbreak of a worldwide flu epidemic.
The Soldier’s March is the overture to the work. From the beginning the violin is obviously the instrument of the devil in the hands of our soldier. The Little Concert and the Three Dances (Tango, Waltz, and Ragtime) are the most complicated of all the pieces. The Tango was very popular in Europe at this time, but the Ragtime was quite new, Stravinsky only just having heard Jazz for the first time before the creation of this work. The Suite ends grandly with The Devil’s Dance and the Devil, although temporarily setback, returns triumphant.
Soldier and Princess
In our collaborative rendition of L’Histoire du Soldat you will see a mixture of humans in costume, shadow and light puppets, as well as wooden, hand-carved Marionettes.
The narrator takes on the many voices as our soldier weaves his way through his ordeals. The musicians will masterfully take us all back to the world of Europe in the year 1918 when many a soldier saw his choices in just as stark terms as our soldier.